UnJust: North Carolina Reneges on Promised Compensation to Forced Sterilization Victims

June 22, 2012  |  

In January, victims of North Carolina’s 50-yearlong history of involuntary sterilization were finally feeling like they would have some closure. A task force voted to pay each of the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 living victims of the heinous practice $50,000 as some sort of penance for the mental, physical and emotional toil they endured, but now the Republican Senate has stalled the effort by rejecting the proposal outright.

State Sen. Don East (R) told the Associated Press:

“You just can’t rewrite history. It was a sorry time in this country. I’m so sorry it happened, but throwing money don’t change it, don’t make it go away. It still happened.”

Looks like it’s still a sorry time in North Carolina. Of course, money doesn’t change what happened but it’s at least some sort of compensation, and honestly a way to make the state hurt just like the estimated 7,600 male and female North Carolinians who were sterilized under the authorization of the North Carolina Eugenics Board between 1929 and 1974, according to the N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation, suffered. Of course, the senate doesn’t see it that way.

“If you could lay the issue to rest, it might be one thing. But I’m not so sure it would lay the issue at rest because if you start compensating people who have been ‘victimized’ by past history, I don’t know where that would end,” Sen. Austin Allran (R) also told the AP.

N.C. Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation executive director Charmaine Fuller Cooper told the News & Observer that the victims are now devastated:

“Even though they are 80-, 90-years-old, they remember it vividly. They had to reopen those old wounds. We have had people come forward and relive those memories and have had people tell their families and nothing happens. They’re angry and they have justification in how they feel.”

When the news first hit that the victims were getting $50,000 most felt like even that wasn’t enough, but to hear now that victims won’t get anything is too much. Elaine Riddick, 57, who was sterilized at 13 after she was raped and gave birth to a son, has become the major face of this effort and she said she won’t let this roadblock stop her.

“We’ve given North Carolina a chance to address their wrongs,” she said. “There is a class action suit as we speak.”

Hopefully they succeed on that front.

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for madamenoire.com. Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.

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  • queenietoo

    this is so sad to me.

  • Why not? The japanese get reparations. No one is calling for this to end.

    • lalatarea

      and native americans I’m the form of tax breaks and free education etc

  • lalatarea

    well money makes the world go round and when ppl have to pay for their injustices with their check book that’s when they learn their lesson.

    • Mrsadkiah

      I understand what you’re saying. That’s why people participated in buss boycotts and things in the 60s to hurt peoples pockets. This however isn’t going to do anything. It happened decades ago and had been publicized for a while. They know that they’re wrong, they don’t care. If anything they’re sorry they got caught. Paying people money because your family owned their ancestors centuries ago doesn’t solve or change anything. It’s not teaching anyone a lesson.

  • hi

    Ms. Hamer was sterilized in Mississippi in 1961 not Alabama.

  • Yeah this is deep. Reminds me of Fannie Lou Hamer’s life story. If you haven’t read the book “For Freedom Sake” about her life I would advise everyone to read it. She as well was a sterilization victim in the state of Alabama. When I think of what our ancestors and still some African Americans and Native Americans are still going through now it truly brings tears to my eyes their will to survive in the midst of it all is truly amazing. I pray that these families find some type of peace and justice. Just taking away someone’s right to bear children just because they are a certain race or color is beyond words.

  • Mrsadkiah

    While I feel for these people and what they went through I do not think that they should be given any money. Like they said, it would be ridiculous to start paying every person who has been victimized by some historical atrocity. I feel the same way a reparations to Blacks from the families of White slave owners. Money isn’t going to solve anything. It’s not going change what happened to these people or make them forget their pain.

  • Prejudice reeks all over this because we all know if it would have been the majority who had been experimented on! They wouldn’t have had to even go this far just showed their proof and they would have been compensated! This is truly sad! (Praying Hands) for all the ignorant people in the world who like to parade around and do under handed shyt while tearing folks who ain’t did a damn thing to them down!

  • Bits

    this is disgusting. thank God for Karma…republicans are pure idiots.

    • TRUTH IS

      Rebloodicans & Democrips equals same story. Thugs and gangster!!

  • Vic

    But still get yourself a white man ladies!!!!!! -_-

    • momo

      Or stay chasing black men at chase white women. At least the yt man I marry will protect me.


    Sheeple stil sleeping?!? Wake the phaq up and stop swearing for these celebritards!! Imagine the stuff that don’t come to light! NObama

  • Asia

    This story is sad but not surprising whatsoever. I would say that the proposal was rejected because it’s a Southern state, but honestly they wouldn’t have compensated these women in any state since this was a common practice during the Jim Crow era as well as post Civil Rights Movement. I remember reading a story in my women’s studies class during my freshmen year where doctors would target women who lived in the projects as case studies and sterilize these women without their knowledge. The women were told that they were testing a new drug, but little did they know that they were getting paid to be sterilized. Minority women have been targeted for years to “control the population” and it is saddening to see that the victims of sterilization will not get the justice they deserve.

    • ccepj

      It was not just minority women that were targeted. Girls and boys were the target of these sterilizations across the country. Anderson Cooper had Ms. Riddick on his show along with an older San Diego man (via Skype). Both recounted their experiences being sterilized. The general belief is that low income and minority youth were targeted by the government because they were believed to be incapable of understanding what was happening (Ms Riddick’s grandmother approved the procedure because they asked her while Ms. Riddick was already under hospital care giving birth to her son, and her grandmother did not understand the terminology, but she trusted the doctors) or could be forced into the procedure (the San Diego man was forcefully sterilized while living in an orphanage). Shortly after the airing of the Anderson Cooper special, the San Diego man passed away. He never saw justice. And it was on this show that a North Carolina representative stated the government would provide monetary compensation to the victims. It is sad to see a bit of comfort given to people only to see it stripped away…